Writing & Updating Bylaws

Writing & Updating Bylaws

The bylaws of an organization contain the fundamental principles that govern its operation. All but the most informal groups should have their basic structure and methods of operation in writing. The bylaws establish the specific rules of guidance by which the group is to function.

The Purpose of Bylaws

By definition, an organization is a "body of persons organized for some specific purpose, as a club, union, or society." The process of writing bylaws will serve to clarify your purpose, provide blocks for building an effective group, and delineate your basic structure.

It also gives both members and potential members a better understanding of what the organization is all about and how it functions. If you bear in mind the value of having a written document that clearly describes the basic framework of your organization, the drafting of the bylaws will be a much easier and more rewarding experience.

Bylaws articulate the purpose of your organization and spell out the procedures for its orderly functioning. Once you have developed the bylaws, they need to be reviewed often. The needs of your group will change over time, and it is important that the bylaws are kept up-to-date to reflect the current state of affairs.

Make sure each member has access to a copy of the bylaws. This will help unify and educate your members by informing them about the opportunities that exist for participation and the procedures that they should follow to be an active, contributing member. A thorough study of the bylaws should be a part of officer training and transition.

What Should Be Covered in the Bylaws

The following is an outline of the standard information to be included in bylaws. The objective is to draft a document that covers these topics in a clear, simple, and concise manner.

  • The name of the organization
  • Affiliation with other groups (local, state, national, etc.)
  • Purpose, aims, functions of the organization
  • Membership requirements and limitations
  • Officers (titles, duties, term of office, how and when elected)
  • Advisor (term of service, how selected)
  • Meetings (frequency, special meetings and who calls them)
  • Dues (amount and collection procedures, any special fees when payable)
  • Executive Board (structure, composition, powers)
  • Committees (standing, special, how formed, chairperson, meetings, duties, powers)
  • Order of Business (standard agenda for conducting meetings)
  • Parliamentary Authority (provisions for rules of order, generally Robert's Rules of Order)
  • Other specific policies and procedures unique to your organization necessary for its operation

Updating Bylaws

As your bylaws are updated, your organization should submit updated copies to the Student Activities Office. It is requested that this is done at least once every three years.